Agence France-Presse

Yosmel de Armas, Cuban soccer player, defects

Cuban soccer player Yosmel de Armas left his team before a qualifying game in Nashville to seek asylum in the United States.


Frederick Breedon

Cuban soccer player Yosmel de Armas has surfaced in Miami seeking asylum in the United States, Reuters reported today.

The 22-year-old midfielder didn’t play in Cuba’s final game against Canada during the Olympic qualifying tournament in Nashville two weeks ago.

At the time, the coach said he was sick, or that he’d injured his ankle.

“We’re preparing an asylum application to file with the Department of Homeland Security,” Armas’s lawyer, Alex Solomiany, told Reuters.

Armas wasn’t on Cuba’s roster sheet for its game against Canada on March 26, CBC News said.

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His only appearance in the tournament was in a 4-0 loss to El Salvador.

“The player that’s not here today is feeling very sick,” Cuban coach Raul Gonzalez told CBC through a translator. “He left yesterday in practice. He injured his ankle, so he was in the hotel.

“Something else happened. He doesn't really know,” the translator said.

Solomiany said Armas’s health is fine, and that he boarded a bus for Miami on March 26 from Nashville, The Tennessean newspaper reported.

He is staying with friends, and doesn’t have any family in the US.

“What we’re in the process of working on is to file an application for political asylum with US Citizenship and Immigration Services,” Solomiany said, according to The Tennessean. “We hope we can establish the harm and persecution he would face if he were to go back.”

Armas is the third Cuban soccer player this year to defect.

Two women left the Cuban team during their Olympic qualifying event in Vancouver in January.

In 2008, seven members of the Cuban under-23 men's team defected during an event in Tampa, Fla., and a member of the national team fled after a game in Charlotte, N.C., last year.

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